Army Units Confront Iraqi Republican Guard
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 1, 2003 U.S. Army units attacked Iraqi Republican Guard units around Karbala within the past day, a senior Central Command official told media this morning.
The attacks were very effective and resulted in the capture of an Iraqi general, an airfield and a training camp for regime death squads, CENTCOM Deputy Operations Chief Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said during a press conference in Qatar. He said interrogation of the Iraqi general has yielded tactical information.
Brooks said these were limited-objective attacks and were intended to create vulnerabilities in the Republican Guard defenses. The attacks were also aimed at isolating remaining pockets of resistance "for destruction at a time of our choosing," he said.
News reports indicate that coalition soldiers fired on a vehicle that ended up containing women and children, killing at least seven. Brooks acknowledged the incident and said that the United States regrets the loss of life. But, he added, the military will not make changes in the rules of engagement because of this incident. He said the military continually assesses procedures and is investigating this incident.
Coalition air operations continue to target the Republican Guard. Defense officials said there were about 2,000 sorties on March 31, with 800 of those strike sorties. While some were targeted against fixed regime targets, most went after "emerging targets" in the Republican Guard. "We are operating 24/7 across every square inch of Iraq," said the official.
There were 400 tanker sorties March 31. And, officials said, more than 20 million gallons of gas have been transferred air-to-air since the start of operations. There were also 250 airlift sorties and 125 command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties flown March 31.
CENTCOM's combat power remains focused on the Republic Guard. "(They) are the primary conventional structure of the Iraqi regime," Brooks said. "We expect them to fight. And in some cases they've already fought."
In some cases, Brooks said, Iraqi death squads are mingled in with Republican Guard units to ensure they fight. "In any military operation, we seek to create conditions of advantage," he said. "That comes by way of making a vulnerable spot inside of an organization, reducing its strength, seeking a position of advantage. All these things are part of the military art form."
The attacks on Republican Guard forces mean the coalition is reducing their strength and disrupting or ending the ability of commanders to command and control their forces.
"That's the way we approach our operations," Brooks said. "I won't describe how far we've taken them or at what point we believe they would be at the greatest disadvantage. But our operations will continue until we're satisfied with that, and we'll attack at a time and place of our choosing."